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Special Bulletin by the Leadership Council: What can you do to help solve the crisis in the nation's family courts?

April 14, 2010

According to a conservative estimate by the Leadership Council, each year more than 58,000 children are ordered by family courts into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States. (link to press release)

This crisis is larger than the one in the Catholic Church. It is also more dangerous. Children who are court ordered into the custody of their abuser have no one to turn to for help as these custody determinations are backed by the force of law.

What can you do to help solve the crisis in the nation's family courts?

Find out about the domestic violence laws in your state. Most states prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from having custody or access. Is this law being upheld in your state? Join with others and work within your state to strengthen these laws.

  1. Find out if Parental Alienation Theory being promoted in your state. Abusive parents often gain custody by convincing court evaluators that safety concerns raised by family members are indicative of “parental alienation syndrome” – a pseudoscientific theory that views child abuse claims as a custody ploy to deprive the accused parent of custody. Too often, protective parents are labeled as “parental alienators” and then punished by the courts for their appropriate protective efforts. Lobby legislators to limit thus use of nonscientifc theories in family court.

  2. Demand specialized evaluations by experts in family violence in custody cases involving allegations of domestic violence or child abuse. A regular custody evaluation is not sufficient to uncover family violence. Nor are evaluations done by Child Protective Services. Child Protective service agencies are usually not adequately staffed to comprehensively assess child abuse in the context of family conflict.

  3. If you feel that the court system has harmed a child you know, tell your story. Fill out our online questionnaire and share your story with others. Careful research and increased media coverage are necessary to expose this crisis.

  4. Join with others who are concerned about the crisis. Examples of some good organizations working to reform the nation's family court system: The Battered Mother's Custody Conference, Justice for Children, California Protective Parents Association, The Center for Judicial Excellence, Protective Mother's Alliance, DVLEAP Custody and Abuse Project, and Stop Family Violence.

  5. Support the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence. The Leadership Council trains professionals, sponsors research and submits amicus briefs in cases to inform the courts about the most current science on child abuse, interpersonal violence, and family conflict. Learn more about donating to the LC

 

 

More information on abuse and custody issues